Feeling tired, moody or blue? You are definitely not imagining that dip in your energy levels at this time of year.
The reduced sunlight hours over winter seriously impacts energy levels, mood and appetite. Research suggests that 9 out 10 people will experience a dip in their energy levels and in more serious cases people can experience SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). SAD is a type of depression that occurs in winter, where the lack of sunlight significantly reduces the production of the hormones that regulate sleep, appetite and mood. It is thought to affect around 3% of the population and is complex and serious. Luckily the majority are not effected to the same extent, but in all seriousness the lack of sunlight can really leave people in a state of winter blues.
Simply put, serotonin (the mood boosting hormone) is produced when the sunlight enters the eye and regulates all things related to energy, appetite and mood. When you aren’t producing enough these behaviours get thrown out of whack. Melatonin is produced in darkness (regulating the sleep cycle) and prepares the body for sleep. Hence dark early nights mean your body produces less of the mood boosting hormones and more of the drowsiness inducing hormones, making you want to hibernate and eat more.
Luckily, you can boost energy levels through foods and supplements to avoid dipping into hibernation mode for the next four or so months. Food is medicine as they say and these three nutrients can be found pretty easily, so incorporate into your foods and feel on top form this winter!
1. Vitamin D
This might be the most essential vitamin to take during the winter months. Vitamin D plays a crucial role in converting tryptophan into serotonin so it’s not surprising that Vitamin D deficiency is linked to depression. The best source is through sunlight so over winter it’s even more important to add in to your diet. Luckily it’s easy to incorporate through foods such as fatty fish (e.g. Salmon, Herring, Tuna), egg yolks and fortified foods such as some milks (check the label). Besides sunlight the best form is in supplements, with a dose of 3000iu having high absorption rates. I cannot stress the importance of Vitamin D enough.
During winter I take a high dose Vitamin D supplement such as this one.
Magnesium has been shown to boost mood, as well as being a great all round protector for the body. It helps with serotonin and is often used to help combat fatigue and balance emotions. Magnesium is easy to get through foods, as well as sprays and supplements. Good sources of food include: Nuts (almonds, cashews, peanuts), spinach and beans.
Chromium works directly with the hormones that regulate energy and mood (serotonin, norepinephrine and melatonin). It helps to stabilise blood sugar levels which prevent energy dips. It’s found in small quantities in a lot of foods but the best sources are shellfish, brazil nuts, pears, broccoli, tomatoes, sweet potatoes and oats. If taken in supplement form, research suggests 200mcg is the best amount to reap the benefits. I usually take this one.
Upping your intake of these three nutrients will definitely help to boost your energy over these long dark evenings!